, 24 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
Journalists have been taught they will appear biased if they’re too critical of just one side of politics. So what they do is say ‘Liberals did XYZ wrong and Labor also did XYZ wrong’. But what if Liberals did 100 times more ‘wrong’ than Labor? False balance. A thread👇🏻
The most famous and damaging example of this false balance in recent times has been the US election coverage of Trump’s numerous scandals given equal and often less coverage than the only scandal Clinton was responsible for - private emails.
What this false balance does is make the private emails scandal appear more important than all the Trump scandals put together - it means the reality of he Trump scandals is misrepresented in order for journalists to maintain the appearance of ‘balanced’ coverage.
This false balance also is caused by journalism training that teaches them they must get comment from both sides of politics on every issue. The ‘he said / she said’ template makes coverage of politics appear balanced, when reality it is rarely actually balanced.
So, for instance, someone not informed about politics will hear a news report about #HelloWorld scandal that gives the facts of what happened and then some quotes of Labor saying it was bad and Liberals denying it was a problem.
This is how #HelloWorld gets buried. Journalists have been taught that only Labor are allowed to say ‘this is a scandal’ and the journalists tend not to want to say that for themselves. By complaining, Labor are brought into the story and the mud smears them too.
Regardless of what the reality is, what the audience hears is ‘Labor have made an accusation’ and ‘Liberals have denied it’. That’s the said / she said template. What they really hear is ‘politicians are behaving badly and they’re just as bad as each other’.
This is particularly evident when you see analysis by journalists that says ‘faith in politics has been eroded again this week’, when in reality one side of politics has been responsible for the erosion. Journalists loathe to make this point because they fear accusation of bias.
Perfect example of this false balance was @barriecassidy awarding Labor the wooden spoon this week because Labor criticised Littleproud for owning Woolworths shares while telling shoppers to boycott Coles and Aldi.
Apparently Barrie thought this minor incident most people missed in a week of more Liberal and National scandals than I’ve ever seen occurring before in politics was important enough to warrant Labor ‘losing’ the week. False balance.
Another example of false balance is when journalists spend most of an article focused on Liberal scandals and to ‘balance’ this analysis, give examples of supposedly ‘negative’ things that have happened to Labor by making false equivalencies.
Example of this is @murpharoo comparing numerous Liberal scandals this week to Labor policy decisions. Scandals are different from normal political wrangling over policy decisions - comparing them is false balance.
In fact both the journos I have mentioned - Cassidy and Murphy - are very good journalists who I respect greatly. It’s often those you have the highest expectations of who disappoint you most. Thing is, most journalists exhibit false balance all the time because they fear ‘bias’.
When you read purely factual analysis of a scandal such as #PaladinAffair, there is no false balance because facts are just focused on reality. In reality, #PaladinAffair is a massive problem for Liberals and nothing to do with Labor.
Conversely, I’ve noticed most times I’ve heard news about #HelloWorld, journalists have been careful to say Labor also awarded Hello World contracts. False equivalency and false balance!
Labor awarded Hello World a contract as a panel with other suppliers, not the sole contract like Liberals. And Labor doesn’t have personal/organisational/financial links with Hello World, nor received free flights from owner. Why even mention Labor gave contracts? False balance.
The reason journalists kept mentioning Labor also have Hello World contract is because the Liberals kept saying that to deflect from their guilt. So, ‘he said, she said’ journalism once again distorts REALITY and smears Labor along with Liberals unjustly.
Journalists often write about loss of trust in politics. Do they ever wonder how this loss of trust happened? Could dissatisfaction with ‘the majors’ be caused by false balance that tends to smear both sides through distortion of reality?
It’s noteworthy that the template doesn’t allow for minor party or independent smearing and therefore these players tend to come out scot-free. For instance, medevac bill is ONLY apparently a problem for Labor, not the Greens and Phelps who were instrumental in its design.
Last thing, I find it fascinating that this type of critique of journalism is so rejected by journalists because I’m an outsider. I’m not allowed an opinion on their work, and my analysis is never accepted as rational and fair because I’m a known Labor voter.
Why are journalists - like Cassidy and Murphy - so applauded when they critique importance of getting facts straight etc - and I am not. Tweeps enjoy this stuff, but journalists absolutely hate it. Touched a nerve? End.
PS: sorry about typos - one handed typos while I wrangle a toddler. Best I could do!
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